News Release

· Vioxx · Medicare

SIDNEY WOLFE, M.D.
The Associated Press reports that Monday’s mistrial “leaves Vioxx’s maker Merck & Co. with the prospect of facing a new jury that could hear allegations that the company withheld information from the New England Journal of Medicine about a 2000 Vioxx study so the drug would appear safer than it was.”

Wolfe is director and founder of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group and co-author of the newsletter “Worst Pills.” He said today: “Public Citizen warned consumers in 2001 not to take the Vioxx because of adverse effects and evidence of a higher risk of heart attack. The fact that Vioxx can cause heart damage was known for years, but the FDA continually ignored warnings about it — the FDA has sided time and again with the drug companies instead of the public.”

Wolfe added: “Vioxx was the ninth prescription drug to be taken off the market in seven years that Public Citizen warned Worst Pills subscribers not to use. … There are 100,000 deaths a year in the United States from adverse drug reactions, and nearly 1.5 million people are injured so seriously by adverse drug reactions that they require hospitalization.”
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JOHN GEYMAN
Geyman is professor emeritus of family medicine at the University of Washington. He is president of Physicians for a National Health Program and author of the just-released book Shredding the Social Contract: The Privatization of Medicare.

He said today: “As a result of the Medicare act of 2003, many seniors are now picking drug benefit plans. The choices are confusing and meager for Medicare recipients, while the plans create lucrative new markets for the pharmaceutical and insurance industries. The underlying issue — the uncontrolled escalation of drug prices — was completely avoided, even to the point of prohibiting the federal government from negotiating deep discounts of drug prices through its bargaining clout, as it already does for the Veterans Administration. The Medicare bill of 2003 required the prescription drug benefit to be provided by private drug plans, even though private plans have been conclusively demonstrated by experience over the last 20 years to be more expensive and less efficient than the traditional Medicare program.

“Attempts to privatize Medicare are as old as the program itself and they have continued. A three-year $30 million media campaign launched in 1995 by the Heritage Foundation helped to promote market-based solutions to the ‘Medicare problem.'”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167